Friday, September 29, 2006

I've Always Liked This Guy.

Richard Branson. SIR Richard Branson, that is, British founder of Virgin records, and everything else since that's started with "Virgin" (including an airline, book publishing company and fitness clubs).

It's rare that you hear of a record company executive (or in more recent year, airline excutive, etc) make the news. Or at least for the reasons that this guy has. He's tried to circumnavigate the world in a hot air balloons and other such stunts.

He most recently made the news for donating (sort of) a cool three billion towards the fight against global warming.

The article below, from Grist Magazine, goes into the donation a little bit deeper though, illustrating that the act may be entirely altruistic. It will no doubt be more than welcomed by treehuggers though (and those still in training).

Richard Branson, founder and chair of the British conglomerate Virgin Group, has racked up more than his share of high-profile high jinks over the years. Among them, signing the notorious Sex Pistols to his young record label, dangling nearly nude over Times Square, and botching numerous transoceanic hot-air balloon expeditions, necessitating rescue by helicopter. But the most audacious move of all may have been his declaration last week that he'll dedicate $3 billion to helping solve the climate crisis.

The largest-ever private sum directed to the cause, Branson's pledge accounted for more than a third of the total $7.3 billion in commitments reaped at the Clinton Global Initiative gathering in New York. That's where Bill Clinton convened movers, shakers, and big spenders to tackle what he calls the four most pressing global challenges of our time: poverty, health care, religious and ethnic conflict, and global warming.

Climate change drew in more dollars and cents than the other issues, and that's surely attributable at least in part to the fact that climate solutions -- be they energy-saving technologies or fossil-fuel alternatives -- have enormous profit-making potential. Companies like General Electric, which is pushing its climate-friendly innovations, know this full well. GE's "Green is green" motto says it all: Good environmental strategies fatten the bottom line.

Branson, for his part, has made no bones about the fact that his global-warming commitment is less a charitable endeavor than a brand-building, revenue-producing tactic. He plans to plow 100 percent of the proceeds from Virgin's airline and locomotive divisions -- an estimated $3 billion over 10 years -- into investments in clean technologies, such as wind turbines and cleaner-burning aviation fuel, with a heavy emphasis on developing "cellulosic" ethanol. Derived from agricultural waste and fast-growing crops like switchgrass, this biofuel produces virtually no greenhouse-gas emissions and is much-celebrated in environmental circles, although it has yet to be proved in the marketplace.

"I believe [cellulosic ethanol] is the future of fuel," Branson stated at the CGI, predicting, "Over the next 20 or 30 years, I think it actually will replace the conventional fuel that you get out of the ground."

Earlier this month, Branson established Virgin Fuels, which will channel $400 million into biofuels investments over the next three years. He has already sunk nearly a fifth of that into the California-based company Cilion, which is developing state-of-the-art ethanol plants and is bankrolled by dot-com-billionaire-turned-biofuels-evangelist Vinod Khosla.

Branson seems to be trying to do for biofuels what his company helped do for cell phones -- make a fringe technology into a mainstream phenomenon. Said Ashok Gupta, air and energy program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, "A single investment like this can't solve global warming by itself, but it can help create trends that in turn move markets that produce solutions. From environmental, national security, and investment perspectives, Branson deserves big applause."

Media magnate Ted Turner agrees. He told The New York Times that Branson's commitment was a "brilliant move," adding, "He'll probably make more money off of this than he would off the airlines themselves."

Indeed, Branson has plenty of good business reasons to pursue this strategy -- not the least of which is a federal mandate in the U.K. requiring all fueling stations to get 5 percent of their fuel from renewable sources by 2010. There are also heaps of incentives in the pipeline for biofuel stations and production in the U.S. and elsewhere. But the biggest driver, says Branson, is the soaring cost of oil: "I've seen the price of my [aviation] fuel going up by nearly a billion over the last three years. It's painful for us as a business, it's painful for our travelers, but thank God it's happened ... [H]igh oil prices are what's been needed to actually wake up the world to deal with this [climate] problem."
Oh, and his current little pet project will no doubt be of interest to stargazing Mrs THIT. Branson wants to enable "regular folks" to go into space. Wealthy regular folks, that is...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Stand Up!

Damn. I wish I'd have known about this earlier.

On October 15&16, the world will come together and Stand Up and remind their governments that promises to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and help the billions living in extreme poverty, must be kept.

Join us as we set the Guinness World Record for the most people standing up against poverty. Together we can end extreme poverty.

Click on the logo for more information.

I might have been able to get something organized here. I'll keep an eye open for an event in Ottawa, but so far nothing is scheduled.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Ah, they're playing? Yeah, looks like a great time. Man alive...

Sumatran tiger cubs play in their pen at the Toronto Zoo in Toronto Thursday, Sept. 21, 2006. The cubs, born June 28, were making their first public appearance. (AP PHOTO/CP, Adrian Wyld)

An Inconvenient Read

I was at the gym earlier today, bustin' my glutes, when between exercises I happened by the magazine counter they have there. They never have anything good (they're mostly geared towards women, and I can't get behind articles entitled "Learn how to get your man to do what YOU want!") but I scoped it anyway.

I came upon a mag called Western Standard (if I recall correctly). Seems less like a publication about the Western provinces than an infomercial for the Conservative government, but I leafed through it anyway.

There's a movie review in there for An Inconvenient Truth. Seemed a little late for that, but the magazine was dated July 3rd.

Not everyone likes this flick. And generally speaking, I don't care if someone doesn't like something that I do, if they can at least give me a reasonably valid reason. Even if I disagree with it, I'll at least respect the opinion.

This review contained a criticism of Inconvenient Truth that I've read both before and since seeing it; that Al Gore is long on theories, but short on solutions.

Bullshit. While the end credits run, they list all kinds of ways by which you can reduce your impact on the environment. The movie leads you right into it!

It's amazing to me that anyone can miss it, but at least it speaks volumes about both the accuracy and the mindset of the person writing the review.

Friday, September 22, 2006


So the beautiful Mrs THIT is in also beautiful (as I remember it) North Bay visiting with family (including wiener dog), leaving me El Casa Del Treehugger to myself for a couple of nights.

That means that I get to go a little nutty. Yeah, you know what I'm talking 'bout! Ordering pizza and watching Battlestar Galactica DVD's.

All right, so we all have our levels of craziness and mine is not particularly high. Whatever puts a smile on your face, right?

I was out of port (typically my drink of that stuff organic? Doubt it...Could it be made organic? Will investigate...) so I took a stroll to the liquor store on my lunch break, don't you know. While browsing the various bottles of wine on the shelves, and like 91% of the people there, pretending that I could actually tell one from the other by a category other than the price tag, I came across the following charmer:

"Cat's Phee on a Gooseberry Bush". Yes, right. I don't know if anyone's ever referred to that and started their sentence with "Boy I could really go for..." but I had to admit that it was somewhat eye-catching.

More so for me was a white circle on the label which stated "Helping the OSPCA To Provide Creature Comfort".

Ah? Indeed? Flip t other side of bottle...

"A contribution from the sale of this wine is donated to Ontario SPCA to help protect all animals from abuse and neglect."

Boy howdy. A cheap buzz WHILE treehugging, eating pizza and watching my favourite sci-fi show? Are you kidding me? Sold!

I picked up a different one though called Tom Cat, but same basic idea. As stated before, I'm fascinated by how many options there are to make small differences that, with enough participation and/or repetition can become big differences.

Which leads me to an idea I had last weekend.

Picture the above lit over my head.

To illustrate this epiphany, I need to refer back to a couple of things. Anyone who knows us, who reads this thing semi-regularly, also knows that...

a) We've bought a house from Tamarack Homes, who uses their Energy Star building practices as a selling point.
b) I'm a sucker for the compact fluorescent lights.

Does anyone remember my post about Project Porchlight? Simply put, in their own words: "The campaign's goal is to bring together business, community groups and volunteers to deliver one free compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) to every household in Canada."

Does anyone see where I'm going with this? I wrote to Project Porchlight and asked whether, if called upon, they'd be able to provide Tamarack with one light bulb for every new home. Their answer was positive.

I then wrote to Tamarack to ask whether they'd be open to delivering that bulb. They don't even have to make it part of construction; they can include it in the gift basket that new homeowners get upon taking possession. They can also use this partnership as a marketing tool.

So far Tamarack's answer has been silence.

That's okay. I'm halfway there. I'm not known for having a great deal of patience, but that doesn't mean I can't be persistent when I get an idea in my head.

Pack a lunch, Tamarack, this could take a while... ;-)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

One Of These Two Deserves A Kick In The Ass.

BEIJING (AP) - A drunken Chinese tourist bit a panda at the Beijing Zoo after the animal attacked him when he jumped into the enclosure and tried to hug it, state media said Wednesday.

Zhang Xinyan had drunk four pitchers of beer at a restaurant before "stumbling to the zoo" nearby and stopping off at the pen holding a sleeping 6-year-old male panda, Gu Gu, on Tuesday, the Beijing Morning Post said.

"He felt a sudden urge to touch the panda with his hand" and jumped over a waist-high railing down into the enclosure, the newspaper said. "When he got closer and was undiscovered, he reached out to hug it."

Startled, Gu Gu bit Zhang in the right leg, it said. Zhang, a 35-year-old migrant labourer from central Henan province, got angry and kicked the panda, who then bit his other leg. A tussle ensued, the paper said.

"I bit the fellow in the back," Zhang was quoted as saying in the newspaper. "Its skin was quite thick."

Other tourists yelled for a zookeeper, who soon got the panda under control by spraying it with water, reports said. Zhang was hospitalized.

Newspaper photographs showed Zhang lying on a hospital bed with blood-soaked bandages and several seams of stitches running down his leg.

The Beijing Youth Daily quoted Zhang, a father of two who was visiting Beijing for the first time, as saying that he had seen pandas on television and "they seemed to get along well with people."

"No one ever said they would bite people," Zhang said. "I just wanted to touch it. I was so dizzy from the beer. I don't remember much."

Ye Mingxia, a spokeswoman for the Beijing Zoo, confirmed the incident happened but would not give any details. She said Gu Gu was "healthy and uninjured."

"We're not considering punishing him now," Ye said in a telephone interview. "He's suffered quite a bit of shock."

China has more than 180 pandas living in captivity. A 2002 government census found there were just 1,596 pandas left in the wild. But state media has said a new study by Chinese and British scientists has found there might be as many as 3,000.

In 2003, a college student trying to take a photo of a panda in the Beijing Zoo jumped into the enclosure and broke his bones in the fall, the Beijing Morning Post said.

It did not say which panda it was or if it attacked the student.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I'm Going To Win One Of These For Mrs THIT!

Yep. I'll show you this contest, but don't even bother to enter. This baby's mine.

I like the idea of getting one of these bad boys for the fuel efficiency, both in terms of (little) amount used and money saved.

For the sake of illustration, I played their little "driving game" (bottom right). It tells you how much you'd save on trips across Canada and in parts of the States.

I ran one off the top of my head for no particular reason; Ottawa to Calgary. I guess I'd suddenly developed a mood to freeze my ass. ;-)

According to their math, over the course of nearly 3500 kilometres, we'd use up...

Average car: 342.07 litres / $344.00
Smart car: 129.30 litres / $125.50

Whoa. Even allowing for a little fudging on their part, that's still pretty significant.

The drawback of course is its tiny size. Christine pointed out that it would be difficult to use one of these to go camping. My suggestion? Let's not go camping!

My suggestion was not well-received. Christine instead figured we could keep the current car and use it for those trips where truck space is required. Yeah, that makes a weird kind of sense too.

Anyway, that's why I like them. Christine, for her part, likes them because...well...they're cute.

I guess I can't argue with that logic either... :-\

He Made it!

Little Oscar got his picture posted on the Animals Matter to Me site. It'll probably move down as people post more and more of them, but for now it's on page twelve (when viewing sixteen pictures at a time).

Saturday, September 16, 2006

So If I Write To a Vegan Vixen...

...the old-fashioned way (snail mail) would they be opposed to my use of this product?

It is paper made from sheep poo. Technically an animal by-product.

I think it would be okay.
Gardeners know it is ideal for making compost but now a company in Snowdonia has won an award for being even more innovative with sheep droppings.

Creative Paper Wales has produced greetings cards and gifts made from the by-products of its woolly neighbours.

Its Sheep Poo Paper products have won a £20,000 Millennium Award for "social entrepreneurship".

After the sheep droppings are collected, they are sterilised, washed and mixed with other recycled paper.

This is then turned into the finished paper and cardboard while the washing water is distributed to local growers as concentrated fertiliser.

Click on the poo-paper image for the full article (so long as the link is active, that is...)

Vegan Vixens

I am now feeling inspired. No, not to go all the way to Vegan, but to go around promoting vegetarianism in a thong. Look out world!

I guess that's what the Vegan Vixens do. Well, not in thongs, but you know what I mean. Attract an audience to a related event. Their website (click the image above) doesn't really spell that out but the image gallery (which I made sure to inspect closely) pretty well does. Good for them. Whatever works and puts a smile on your face.

Why does the lovely lady above get singled out for THIT spotlighting? 'Cause she's Casey Krebs, the Canadian Vixen, baby!

According to her bio, she played the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz?? I'd like to talk to whomever casted her in that role and get a some background on the reasoning...

Animals Matter To Me

Here's a small thing that people can do. I know that online petitions are largely considered useless, but I also know this: They can't hurt.

The biggest global animal protection initiative has begun and we’re asking for your help to make it happen. WSPA is leading an international effort to convince the United Nations to issue a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare.

A UN Declaration would act as a catalyst for better animal welfare by formally recognizing at the global level that animals are living, sentient beings that can experience pain and suffering and therefore deserve due consideration and respect.

Help us achieve global recognition that animals matter, that they can feel pain and can suffer and that we have a responsibility to put an end to cruelty around the world. We seek 10 million signatures to let the governments of the world know we are serious about achieving a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare at the United Nations.

Click the logo above to add you name. I was number 159,376 so they have some way to go.

And what the hell, I submitted Oscar's picture to their image gallery. We'll see if the THIT mascot makes the cut. :-)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Expedia Offers Travelers Climate Neutral Option.

BELLEVUE, Wash., Aug. 29, 2006 - has become the first online travel agency to offer travelers the ability to purchase carbon offsets to help cancel out the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming.

The company is offering the service through TerraPass, the leading retailer of greenhouse gas reduction projects in the U.S.

"Expedia is dedicated to promoting responsible tourism, and we're proud to extend environmentally conscious options to our travelers," said Steven McArthur, President, Expedia North America Leisure Travel Group. "We are committed to making a positive impact on travel and tourism through industry advocacy, destination support and the promotion of responsible tourism. Offering TerraPass carbon offsets is just one way we invite our customers to join us in this endeavor."

Full Release

...And Here's a Good Place to Start That Decrease.

From CBS News:

Memo to Pentagon brass from the top United States commander in western Iraq: Renewable energy — solar and wind-power generators — urgently needed to help win the fight. Send soon.

Calling for more energy in the middle of oil-rich Iraq might sound odd to some. But not to Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, whose deputies on July 25 sent the Pentagon a "Priority 1" request for "a self-sustainable energy solution" including "solar panels and wind turbines."

The memo may be the first time a frontline commander has called for renewable-energy backup in battle. Indeed, it underscores the urgency: Without renewable power, U.S. forces "will remain unnecessarily exposed" and will "continue to accrue preventable ... serious and grave casualties," the memo says.

Apparently, the brass is heeding that call. The U.S. Army's Rapid Equipping Force (REF), which speeds frontline requests, is "expected soon" to begin welcoming proposals from companies to build and ship to Iraq 183 frontline renewable-energy power stations, an REF spokesman confirms. The stations would use a mix of solar and wind power to augment diesel generators at U.S. outposts, the spokesman says.

Despite desert temperatures, the hot "thermal signature" of a diesel generator can call enemy attention to U.S. outposts, experts say. With convoys still vulnerable to ambush, the fewer missions needed to resupply outposts with JP-8 fuel to run power generators — among the Army's biggest fuel guzzlers — the better, the memo says.

"By reducing the need for [petroleum] at our outlying bases, we can decrease the frequency of logistics convoys on the road, thereby reducing the danger to our marines, soldiers, and sailors," reads the unclassified memo posted on the website, a defense industry publication that first reported its existence last month.

Full article.

Good! Now Start Thinking Decrease.

From Worldwatch:

World oil use increased by 1.3 percent in 2005, a significant slowdown after a record-breaking rise of 3.4 percent in 2004. The International Energy Agency estimates that oil demand reached 3.8 billion tons in 2005, or 83.3 million barrels a day.

Meanwhile, the carbon dioxide released during the combustion of all this oil is contributing to climate change, which many scientists worry is producing more extreme weather events. Economic damages from weather-related disasters hit an unprecedented $204 billion in 2005, nearly doubling the previous record of $112 billion set in 1998 and reflecting the high number of disasters affecting built-up areas. Three of the 10 strongest hurricanes ever recorded occurred in 2005.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

New Links

Like most blogs, the right side of my page is filled with a series of links. Admitedly, they're mostly there for my own quick reference but if someone happens to find something of interest there, great. But when they start adding up, I'm sure it's difficult for people to notice when some have been added. So when I do add them I'll point it out in case anyone might be interested.

I've added two today. The first is for the Alaska Conversation Foundation. Pretty self-explanatory, I think. It's an area that I'd love to visit one day though when and by which method remain to be determined. Apparently they would rather it not be by cruise ship.

The other is one I stumbled on called Canadian Ally though it's technically not intended for me. is an electronic newsletter maintained by the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, designed specifically for an American audience. The goal of this e-publication is to bring together pertinent defence and security information from a variety of government departments, agencies, military commands and bi-national organizations. The intent is to give American citizens a better sense of the scope of Canada's role in North American and Global Security and the War on Terror. is managed by:

Lt.Col Douglas Martin, CD
Counsellor (Military-Media Affairs)
Canadian Embassy
Washington DC, 20001
(202) 448 6324

I'm quite interested in seeing what comes out of that one.

The 100-Mile Diet

Hmmm...I've already got the vegetarian thing going, I wonder how I could pull off a distance limit. Neat idea though. Click the image for a link to the main site.

When the average North American sits down to eat, each ingredient has typically travelled at least 1,500 miles—call it "the SUV diet." On the first day of spring, 2005, Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon (bios) chose to confront this unsettling statistic with a simple experiment. For one year, they would buy or gather their food and drink from within 100 miles of their apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Since then, James and Alisa have gotten up-close-and-personal with issues ranging from the family-farm crisis to the environmental value of organic pears shipped across the globe. They've reconsidered vegetarianism and sunk their hands into community gardening. They've eaten a lot of potatoes.

Their 100-Mile Diet struck a deeper chord than anyone could have predicted. Within weeks, reprints of their blog at had appeared on sites across the internet. Then came the media, from BBC Worldwide to Utne magazine. Dozens of individuals and grassroots groups have since launched their own 100-Mile Diet adventures. The need now is clear: a locus where 100-milers can get the information they need to try their own lifestyle experiments, and to exchange ideas and develop campaigns. That locus will be here at—turning an idea into a movement.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

World's Largest Solar Power Plant

Germany isn't the sunniest of countries, but it is a hotbed of solar power. And now it's home to what the companies involved are calling the world's largest solar electric power plant. On Friday, Silicon Valley-based SunPower marked the dedication of the Gut Erlasee Solar Park, a 12-megawatt facility located amid cropland near the Bavarian town of Arnstein. SunPower's solar cells are used in about one-third of the "mover" panels--from German solar technology company Solon--that tilt and rotate to stay facing the sun throughout the day.

Credit: Daniel Karmann

Vegan Diet Reverses Diabetes Symptoms, Study Finds

I'd be curious to find out the specifics of the diet they refer to. I'd imagine that many people would struggle to give up cheese, eggs, and so on. Perhaps, like when Mrs THIT and I went vegetarian, after the first couple of days you don't crave it anymore but I'm not yet at the point of finding out.

People who ate a low-fat vegan diet, cutting out all meat and dairy, lowered their blood sugar more and lost more weight than people on a standard American Diabetes Association diet, researchers said on Thursday.

They lowered their cholesterol more and ended up with better kidney function, according to the report published in Diabetes Care, a journal published by the American Diabetes Association.

Participants said the vegan diet was easier to follow than most because they did not measure portions or count calories. Three of the vegan dieters dropped out of the study, compared to eight on the standard diet.

"I hope this study will rekindle interest in using diet changes first, rather than prescription drugs," Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, which helped conduct the study, told a news conference.

An estimated 18 million Americans have type-2 diabetes, which results from a combination of genetics and poor eating and exercise habits. They run a high risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and limb loss.

Barnard's team and colleagues at George Washington University, the University of Toronto and the University of North Carolina tested 99 people with type-2 diabetes, assigning them randomly to either a low-fat, low-sugar vegan diet or the standard American Diabetes Association diet.

After 22 weeks on the diet, 43 percent of those on the vegan diet and 26 percent of those on the standard diet were either able to stop taking some of their drugs such as insulin or glucose-control medications, or lowered the doses.

The vegan dieters lost 14 pounds (6.5 kg) on average while the diabetes association dieters lost 6.8 pounds (3.1 kg).

Full article.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Shush! Dave's Talking...

Unfortunately, it seems not enough people are listening. Here's an abbreviated newsletter article from David Suzuki in which he discussed the results of a study done using a focus group.

...Recently, my foundation conducted a focus group about global warming to see where people are at in their understanding of this complex and challenging problem. The results? Let's just say they were disconcerting, to say the least.

Simply put, most people don't have a clue. The majority felt that global warming was a very important problem and they were quite concerned about it. But when pressed as to why it was a problem or what caused the problem, all heck broke loose.

Apparently, according to the average Joe, global warming is happening because we've created a hole in the ozone layer, allowing the sun's rays to enter the atmosphere and heat up the earth - or something like that. The cause of the problem is cars, or airplanes, or aerosol cans. No one really knows for sure.

This is really quite remarkable. I would have thought that such confused understandings of the issue would have been commonplace five or six years ago, but with global warming being in newspapers on practically a daily basis this spring, on the front cover of magazines, in theatres (An Inconvenient Truth), and a hot political issue as well, surely people would get it by now.

Apparently I was wrong. People don't get it. This is a big problem, because if people don't get it, then they don't really care, so politicians and CEOs don't really care, and status quo rules the day. And blindly we march into the sunset.
So, to clarify - the ozone layer is a part of the atmosphere way up high that helps shield the earth from the sun's most harmful rays. A couple of decades ago, scientists realized that some of the chemicals we were using in our industries and homes were finding their way into the upper atmosphere, reacting with the ozone and destroying it. Scientists were concerned that if this continued, it would thin the vital protective layer, leading to increased skin cancers and crop damage. They sounded the alarm bell, the international community responded with the Montreal Protocol to phase out ozone-depleting substances, and today the ozone layer is gradually healing itself.

Global warming is a quite different phenomenon. Again, it's a human-made problem, but this time it's due to the heat-trapping gases we are putting into the atmosphere from our industries, cars and homes. These gases act like a blanket, keeping more heat near the earth's surface. More heat also means more energy in the atmosphere, which means more frequent or severe extreme weather events like droughts, storms and floods.
So if you understand what global warming is, and what it isn't, please tell your friends. Please speak up and help ensure that we don't continue to grope blindly into the future, searching in the darkness for a light switch. Because at this rate, by the time we finally reach it, it may no longer work.